International Council for Traditions of Music and Dance

A Non-Governmental Organization in Formal Consultative Relations with UNESCO

Report on the First Symposium of the ICTM Study Group on Sound, Movement, and the Sciences

Participants of the 1st SoMoS Symposium, 28-30 September 2020

The First Symposium of the ICTM Study Group on Sound, Movement, and the Sciences (SoMoS) successfully took place from September 28th to 30th. The sixteen papers presented covered a wide range of topics, approaches and methodologies that have defined SoMoS since its inception, and we were happy to note that there were almost an equal number of papers addressing movement/dance on the one hand, and sound/music on the other (programme available here). Besides the emphasis on ethnographic research that unites our group, the studies presented benefitted from inputs from other disciplines. The majority of movement related studies incorporated motion capture technologies, employing statistical and quantitative analysis alongside qualitative methods to address their research goals. In addition, there were studies incorporating methods, approaches and theoretical work from physics, psychology, neuroscience, and virtual reality. Contributions from these sciences were also found in those projects relating to music/sound studies, with representations from signal processing, music information retrieval and data visualization. It is also worth mentioning that a good number of papers presented research combining sound and movement studies. Besides reports of final results and on-going projects, some authors presented theoretical and methodological papers which discussed the opportunities and challenges of the interdisciplinary approaches that characterize much of the work of SoMoS’s members. In this category fell the keynote presentation given by Gediminas Karoblis, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, in which he shared his thoughts on kinaesthetic investigations, combining Husserl’s philosophical statements with the research approaches explicitation interview and motion capture technology.

The Symposium was hosted by KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, even though it eventually had to be held entirely online, due to the travel limitations imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Although initially this appeared to be an inconvenient situation, by the close of the Symposium there was a general agreement among participants and organizers that it had been a success. To ensure the smooth running of the sessions and in case of any last-minute, catastrophic technical problems, the presenters were asked to submit their presentations as pre-recorded videos. During each session, the videos of the programmed papers were streamed while at least one of the authors was present to participate in a live Q&A session held after the streaming of the presentation. For each session, two hosts were assigned, a technical host, who was responsible for the video streaming and taking care of possible connectivity issues, and the session chair who introduced the authors and presentations and moderated the Q&A sessions. Participants were requested to indicate in the chat that they wished to ask a question, either by typing it out in full or writing that they would like to ask a question. In the latter case, the chair of the session invited them to unmute their microphone and ask their questions live to the presenter. As a security measure, all the organizers, located in different institutions and countries, had access to copies of the videos, in case that connection failed in a particular location, a circumstance that indeed happened and was thus quickly solved. A particular issue that requires consideration with this virtual format is managing differences in the time zones from which presenters and attendees will join the symposium. Regarding presenters, the program was designed in conversation with them so that the timeslot for their sessions fell during their daytime. As for the other participants, the pre-recorded videos whose authors explicitly so consented were made available online only during the time of the symposium plus one day.

Despite the obvious downsides to the virtual format, such as the decrease in social interaction and networking, this format also presented some advantages. Firstly, it facilitated the full participation of both geographically remote and economically disadvantaged scholars. The availability of the pre-recorded videos online during the symposium also helped to overcome bandwidth issues, allowing access even when internet connectivity was not strong. As a result, this virtual format increased inclusivity. Furthermore, it is likely to have contributed to an increase in numbers of attendees, helping us to reach more than 50 registered participants, with a mean attendance of nearly 30 people connected to every session. A tool that proved to be especially useful was the online meeting chat function. Besides using it to post questions and report technical issues, the chat was employed by participants to engage in short side conversations relating to the presentations and for sharing links to relevant papers and other information of interest. All of this significantly increased engagement and interactivity, contributing greatly to the richness of the discussions. Finally, each of the first two days of the symposium ended with a more informal open discussion session. These sessions had no predefined content, but acted as opportunities for participants to propose topics of interest and have a relaxed conversation among colleagues. These two sessions, attended by almost 20 participants, resulted in extremely fruitful discussions that covered spontaneously proposed topics, including the very identity of SoMoS, awareness of privileging practices, issues relating to interdisciplinary research, as well as epistemological, methodological, and practical issues connected to incorporating motion capture technologies into research projects.

Besides the academic program, the Symposium included a business meeting attended by study group members. This opened with a report given by Kendra Stepputat, chair of SoMoS, on the recent activities of the group, and included a summary given by SoMoS vice-chair Lara Pearson of the panel on motion capture presented during the 45th ICTM World Conference in Bangkok by several members from SoMoS. There was also an interesting discussion on different options for the publication of papers presented during the symposium, with extended abstracts being the option preferred by the majority of the members. The organization of the next symposium, to be held in 2022, was also discussed. Although the next host was not fully determined, a promising suggestion was presented, and will be investigated. Rafael Caro, secretary of SoMoS, also introduced a discussion on possibilities for incorporating online participation in future symposia, to allow the attendance of participants with travel difficulties, maintain the possibility of wider engagement, and take account of sustainability.

Contrary to the initial expectations of a distant and disengaged encounter due to the online format, the Symposium resulted in very lively sessions, in which highly stimulating talks were held, and a feeling of community forged. This success was achieved, firstly, thanks to the thought-provoking papers, whose academic quality stirred the engagement of all participants. Secondly, it was due to the continuous and optimistic support of the local host, André Holzapfel, and to the committed work of the Program Committee, chaired by Rainer Polak, and comprising also Siri Mæland, Babak Nikzat and Stella Paschalidou; the SoMoS Executive Committee expresses their deepest gratitude to all of them. And finally, this success would not have been possible without the enthusiastic support and active participation of all SoMoS members and friends who attended in the Symposium. We look forward to meeting you all at the next one.

Kendra Stepputat, chair
Lara Pearson, vice-chair
Rafael Caro Repetto, secretary


The Proceedings of the First Symposium of the ICTM Study Group on Sound, Movement, and the Sciences are now published online and available in the following link: